This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Books and Methods Review - School!


This amazing chart can be used when meeting with teachers to explain attachment disorders.  Details on it's use and ways to make presentations about your child are available here.
The most important thing I've learned is that my children need relationships and emotional healing WAAAYYYY more than they need an education.  Think about it, do you really want to raise a well-educated psychopath?

I'm a firm believer that what happens in school stays in school.  We have enough problems with relationships at our house; I don't need to fight the school's battles as well.  Advocate to make sure they get what they needed, but leave the rest to the school.  Family relationships are way more important, and you're not able to work on that if you're fighting about school.

Homework is NOT your problem.  If I force my kids to do their homework then in their mind it becomes MY problem (meaning no longer theirs!).  Also, the school doesn't get an accurate picture of my child's issues (Like most kids of trauma, my children have severe executive functioning and memory issues, which means they canNOT get/stay organized. A lot of times my child understands the assignment at school, but has forgotten it by the time they get home, or they can do something laid out very concretely, but in the homework they are supposed to apply the knowledge they learned - which process to use - which they just can't do!). My son would act out to hide the fact that he couldn't, or didn't think he could, do his homework.

 I need the school to grasp and acknowledge my child's academic issues, and they won't get that if I walk my child through the homework. I do give my child adequate time to do homework and offer support and help (if they ask for it and remain respectful), but I will tell my child to put it down and walk away if it's obviously triggering him/her.  Maybe I encourage them to come back later.  Maybe not.  It depends on what's best for the emotional health of the family as a whole.

A good resource for Adoption Awareness in School Assignments.

Some advice on Advocating for Yourself, Your Family, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order


Advocating for Your Child
When advocating for your child in school you need to use key phrases, like 

"My child has a right to a  Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), this (issue) is preventing him from being able to access that education." 

"These behaviors are caused by my child's Disability. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), My child cannot be discriminated against/ punished/ reprimanded/ denied access to his FAPE for symptoms related to his Disability."
"My child has a right to be in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The LRE for MY child to be able to learn and receive an education is in a smaller classroom with more INDIVIDUAL (one on one) attention. My child cannot learn in a large, chaotic environment like a general ed classroom therefore that is a MORE restrictive environment for my child and as such not APPROPRIATE. 


10 Smart Responses for When the School Cuts or Denies Services

Wrightslaw - go immediately to http://www.wrightslaw.com/ and become familiar with your child's rights!! 

Due Process - If the school is breaking the law then you can file a grievance or file due process - this is like suing the school. You may need an attorney for this. Most schools will offer mediation before it gets this far.Disability Rights Advocate
If the school is breaking the law then you can probably find a free Disability Rights Advocate 

  • If you Google (or Bing or whatever!) {Your State} Disability Advocate or Disability Rights you will probably find several state agencies.
  • You can also get free advocates through NAMI (National Alliance on Mentally Illness)
  • Your local MHMR (Mental Health and Mental Retardation agency) has changed its name to be more politically correct, but usually if you search {Your State or County} Mental Health and Mental Retardation you will find whatever they call it now and if you use their services (they usually provide doctors and psychiatrists that accept Medicaid) then they often provide family support - which can include an advocate
We have also used private Special Education Advocates/ Attorneys. Sometimes they will offer one free meeting.


DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!!!
Put EVERYTHING in writing. The school is required to respond. Keep it short (hard for me!) and stick to the facts. Tell them what you want to have happen. If you must speak to someone on the phone, document the conversation during or immediately afterward (do not delay - it's amazing how much detail you forget - and how much more readily people will accept a "transcript" over a "Someone said that my child couldn't be moved."  l  



A fantastic article about how to write a letter (or an e-mail) that will get your point across effectively.  
"When you write letters to a school, these letters will be read by strangers. Many important decisions about your child's education are made by strangers. What impression will your letter make on a stranger? Will the stranger see you as an angry, negative complainer? Or will the Stranger see you as a rational, thoughtful parent who is expressing valid concerns?When you write letters, keep this "stranger" in your mind’s eye." 

Get ORGANIZED and keep EVERYTHING! E-mails, school behavior reports, transcripts, psych evals, documents. Get letters from his doctors, caregivers, therapists... Get these Organized and keep them updated (you'd be amazed how many times the school will say, "Well we don't have access to, or record of, that, let's wait until it can be found..." When you open up your 3 ring binder and pull out a copy of your child's behavior reports, that medical report that you had put in to their records at his last IEP meeting, your list of topics you want discussed at the meeting (I usually send out a copy of this before the meeting and ask them to make a copy for everyone!)... it keeps them from slowing down the process. 

ADVOCATING FOR YOUR CHILD IN THE CLASSROOM

New School Year Letters.  I send a letter every year to my child's teachers telling them a little about my child and what works and what doesn't.  

Ask if you can make a presentation to all of your child's teacher or even the entire school about your child's disabilities in general.

Details on the use of the chart at the top and ways to make effective presentations about your child that teachers will actually read are in this awesome post written by an amazing fellow trauma mama at Serenity Links Coaching.

I have given a few school presentations, but have never actually blogged about them (working on that). I did however post the Spoon Theory which I think was helpful in making the teachers understand some of the difficulties with which my child struggles.


More Good Articles:
Trauma Informed Approach to Behaviors in the Classroom
About Parenting article - Preparing the School for your Child with RAD 
Nancy Thomas - Letter for Teachers
Nancy Thomas - Letter for Bus Drivers and Monitors
What Every Administrator & Educator Should Know: Separating
Difference from Disability 
Fostering in the Deep End Blog - Back to School with RAD
Attachment Disorder Maryland - School Interventions
Children of Trauma: What Educators Need To Know - good article to share with educators.
An Open Letter to Educators Who Work with Students Who Have Been Diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder or Have Suffered Early Trauma By Carey McGinn Ed.D., CCC/SLP
Children’s Mental Health Disorder Fact Sheet for the Classroom - Reactive Attachment Disorder


The Special Education System Really is Stacked Against Parents -  http://adayinourshoes.com/ways-the-special-education-system-really-is-stacked-against-parents/http://adayinourshoes.com/ways-the-special-education-system-really-is-stacked-against-parents/

Why Texas parents have to fight even harder to get their child into Special Ed. 
Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of Special Education
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/?t=9c54f4ac20 

IEP/ 504/ Disability  

What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP?

What are my child's rights without an IEP?
In some ways your child has more rights without an IEP. Your child falls under the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) which has stricter laws than an IEP or 504.

How do we get an IEP?
Requesting a special education evaluation for an IEP


Texas Project FIRST -  A project of the Texas Education Agency committed to providing accurate and consistent information to parents and families of children (ages 0 to 21) with disabilities. Including how to access ECI and the special education system.

My child has an IEP. How do I get them the services they need?

If your child has an IEP - the most important thing is DO NOT SIGN the IEP!!
Until:
  • you have proof that it says what the team agreed to (can't tell you how many times the school didn't include things agreed to in the meeting or added things in the "verbage" that wasn't agreed to).
DO NOT SIGN IF:
  • if you can't come to an agreement, 
  • the school disagrees and refuses to provide what you know your child needs, 
  • the school claims they cannot provide what you know your child needs.

IEP/ 504 Strategies/ Accommodations 
Printable list of strategies for your IEP meeting  

IEP Goal Banks - 

Bridges4kids IEP Goals and Objectives Bank  which includes pages and pages of goals, including 384 goals under English and 298 Social/emotional goals!!!
Behavioral Goals for an Individual Education Plan
IEP Behavioral Goals 

Developing SMART IEP goals for behavior problems.
Social Emotional IEP Goals
Writing Measurable and Meaningful Behavior Goals
Effectively Addressing Behavioral Concerns within the IEP

More sample goals:
IEP/ GOALS/ Accommodations for Reactive Attachment Disorder
Sample IEP for a child with Autism/PDD
Social Supports Handout- goal areas for friendship and employment skills (teens).
Measurable IEP Goals - includes goals excerpted from an article on Wright's Law, plus some interesting links.
Self-help goals for those whose functional skills are profoundly affected by autism.
Sample math goals.


When it's not working!

Top 10 Most Ridiculous Comments heard at an IEP meeting


Marythemom:  I've heard so many ridiculous things at an IEP meeting (including a lot of these!).  We've had the "professionals" on the team intimidate our advocates to the point they shut down; they even made one cry (and she was a big city lawyer).  An assistant principal (who the meeting before compared the odds of our daughter - who had been hospitalized at least 4 times in the last few months for suicidal ideation - committing suicide-  to being struck by lightning indoors) ticked off our new special education advocate so much that her agency provided all their services pro bono, including the special education lawyer, when we filed due process - which is what they call it when you sue the school.  At school, Kitty tends to "act in" instead of acting out like Bear so we had a hard time getting her the services needed - even with written statements from 2 psychiatrists, 2 therapists, a skills trainer, social workers...

Special Education Advocate or Attorney
Be your own advocate -


Professional Advocates - There are many ways to find free or paid advocates.

  • Ask friends for help or referrals.
  • Look at local organizations or local branches of agencies and systems that you already work with. Ask if they provide advocates or Family Partners who can work as advocates.
  • Family Partner or Case Manager with your local MHMR. The term MHMR is no longer politically correct so all the MHMRs changed their names - unfortunately they all got to pick what they changed it to (ex. Community Services, Integral Care...). The good news is that you can still search for "Your County's Name MHMR" and it will give you the name of your county's mental health and IDD service provider. You have to be a client, but they do accept Medicaid and sliding scale fees. 
  • Some school districts have Parent Liaisons and/or a special education parent support organization. 
  • Use a search engine and type Special Education Advocate and the name of your state, city or school district to find professionals.
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates - COPAA is a community that works to increase the quality and quantity of advocate and attorney representation
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness - NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. We are an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in your community to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.
  • Disability Rights Advocates 
  • ...



Filing Due Process/ Mediation -When a dispute arises between a parent and the school in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting there are a few methods that can be utilized to work out the disagreement.  Most School Districts will have at least one Informal Dispute Resolution (IDR) system in place that can be employed to work out the dispute.

Mediation -A mediation is a meeting facilitated by a mediator used to find a peaceful settlement of the disagreement prior to starting costly litigation. If a resolution is reached at the mediation, a legally binding settlement agreement will be signed by all parties involved.  Once a settlement agreement is executed a new IEP meeting must be called to implement the services outlined in that agreement.  If a resolution is not reached the next step would be a Due Process Hearing.

Due Process -A due process hearing is typically held by the state department of education and presided over by an impartial hearing officer.  The Due Process complaint form must outline the complaint and the proposed resolution.   The other party has the right to respond and can file a Notice of Insufficiency (NOI) if they feel the complaint does not have enough information to proceed.  Since the School District will involve an attorney it is recommended that you consult with an experienced Special Education Attorney before filing for due process.

If the Parents file for due process they have the burden of proof and a resolution session must be held between the School District and the Parents prior to the hearing.  This resolution session can be waived if both parties agree and a formal mediation can be held instead.  If a settlement is not worked out in either the resolution session or formal mediation then the case would proceed to a hearing.  The hearing is similar to a court presiding and will include opening statements, presentation of evidence and cross examination.

Hearing Officer Decisions are final unless appealed to either State or Federal courts.  You can’t file in State or Federal Court until after going through due process.  Hearing decisions shall be made on substantive grounds unless procedural violations impeded the child’s right to a free appropriate public education, significantly impeded the parents opportunity to participate in the decision making process or caused a deprivation of educational benefits.


Least Restrictive Environment 

Least Restrictive Environment - Section 5A of IDEA 2004 (from www.idea.ed.gov): 'To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.'

Almost everyone you speak to, especially schools, assumes the LRE means a child should/ must spend the majority of their time in a general education environment, possibly with some inclusion help, but the reality is the least restrictive environment for your child may be what the school considers to be the MOST restrictive environment.

A Diary of a Mom said it very well:

Many of our kids get easily overwhelmed. Many of them have language processing challenges. Many of them have sensory issues that can make a typical classroom nearly unbearable. For some (and for many years, mine), trying to be taught in a class of twenty some-odd kids is like trying to learn French while your house is on fire. It simply isn’t possible.
The best part about inclusion DONE RIGHT is that it’s never an all or none proposition. It’s flexible, malleable, creative. It is, above all, INDIVIDUALIZED so that the needs of each individual are seamlessly incorporated into the every day routine of the group. And the best part? When generalized, the accommodations of individuals so often benefit the whole. Predictability? Visual prompts and learning tools? Movement breaks? Tools for emotional regulation? Social skills teaching? A little more time to process information? GOOD FOR EVERYONE.
But back to this least restrictive environment thing. Well, based on my experiences in the past and recent conversations with friends, it seems that the assumptions that we’ve begun to make based on that language have become a little, well, restrictive. We assume that LRE means the room with the most typical kids (or even just the most kids) in it. Well, no. It doesn’t. It might. But it might not.


Getting Financial Aide for a child going to college:
http://marythemom-mayhem.blogspot.com/2011/01/financial-planning-for-adopted-child.html


Some good books about kids of trauma and the school system:
Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Themhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=gotore-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1416572279 - Ross W. Greene  
From a distinguished clinician, pioneer in working with behaviorally challenging kids, and author of the acclaimed The Explosive Child comes a groundbreaking approach for understanding and helping these kids and transforming school discipline.Frequent visits to the principal's office. Detentions. Suspensions. Expulsions. These are the established tools of school discipline for kids who don't abide by school rules, have a hard time getting along with other kids, don't seem to respect authority, don't seem interested in learning, and are disrupting the learning of their classmates. But there's a big problem with these strategies: They are ineffective for most of the students to whom they are applied.
It's time for a change in course.
Here, Dr. Ross W. Greene presents an enlightened, clear-cut, and practical alternative. Relying on research from the neurosciences, Dr. Greene offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the difficulties of kids with behavioral challenges and explains why traditional discipline isn't effective at addressing these difficulties. Emphasizing the revolutionarily simple and positive notion that kids do well if they can, he persuasively argues that kids with behavioral challenges are not attention-seeking, manipulative, limit-testing, coercive, or unmotivated, but that they lack the skills to behave adaptively. And when adults recognize the true factors underlying difficult behavior and teach kids the skills in increments they can handle, the results are astounding: The kids overcome their obstacles; the frustration of teachers, parents, and classmates diminishes; and the well-being and learning of all students are enhanced.

  "Trauma in the Lives of Children: Crisis and Stress Management Techniques, 2nd Edition"http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=gotore-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0897932323Kendall Johnson, PhD

Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approaching to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom by Heather T. Forbes - is a pragmatic manual to help guide families and educators who are struggling with traumatized children. Based on the concept of the neuroscience of emotions and behavior, Heather Forbes provides detailed, comprehensive, and logical strategies for teachers and parents. This easy to read book, with tables, outlines and lists, clears the way for a better understanding of the true nature regarding traumatic experiences affecting the brain and learning. It is a must read for anyone working with a child in the classroom.

Financial Planning (including college) for the Adopted Child

2 comments:

Diana said...

:-) Thanks for sharing (and for giving credit! This is a great resource post with lots of great information.

jdemonte said...

This entire post will save our lives. Thank you so very, very much!